Re­form rabbi hits out at out­reach ‘soul trap­pers’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

RABBI DR Tony Bay­field, the head of Bri­tain’s Re­form move­ment, has launched a scathing at­tack on Ortho­dox out­reach groups, brand­ing them “mis­sion­ar­ies and soul trap­pers”.

In an edi­to­rial in the latest is­sue of the Pro­gres­sive mag­a­zine, Manna, he wrote: “We are im­mensely def­er­en­tial to or­gan­i­sa­tions like Aish, who want our chil­dren to be Jewish. But the Ju­daism they want them to sub­scribe to is a Ju­daism that drives a wedge be­tween chil­dren and par­ents, most of­ten ex­pressed in the lament — or state­ment of pride — ‘They can­not eat in my home any more’.”

There are many on the “pic­turesque right”, he adds, “who only want souls and will go to ex­treme lengths to cap­ture them.

“If you doubt just how many are in thrall to the mis­sion­ar­ies and soul trap­pers, ask any­one in lead­er­ship po­si­tions within the main­stream of the com­mu­nity about their bot­tom­less pock­ets and their un­match­able bud­gets. Th­ese en­able them to of­fer en­tic­ing free­bies and de­ploy seem­ingly end­less hu­man re­sources. Much of the money comes from donors within the main­stream of the com­mu­nity.”

He asks: “Why is it that groups and re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions who pa­rade a the­ol­ogy of ‘there’s been a tragedy, check your mezuzah’ variety, are held in such re­spect?”

Aish di­rec­tor Rabbi Naf­tali Schiff said: “We are com­mit­ted to build­ing bridges and unit­ing Jews as op­posed to di­vid­ing Jews. Far from driv­ing wedges through fam­i­lies, so of­ten Aish brings par­ents and their chil­dren to­gether through mean­ing­ful Jewish ex­pe­ri­ences that bridge gen­er­a­tions rather than dis­tance them. ”

The or­gan­i­sa­tion, he added, worked, “very hard to build the con­cept of ‘re­spect for fa­thers and moth­ers’ as it is a cen­tral tenet of Jewish val­ues”.

In 2005, Aish’s in­come ex­ceeded £3m, com­pared to £2.6m for Re­form.

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